Germany, Belgium, and Kuwait put their text in a final form and seek a vote on Thursday. Russia and China also put their rival text in a final form for a vote, that calls for a cessation of hostilities in September but gives no date.

People walk next to fire, debris and a damaged truck after a deadly air strike, said to be in Maarat al Numan, Idlib province, Syria August 28, 2019.
People walk next to fire, debris and a damaged truck after a deadly air strike, said to be in Maarat al Numan, Idlib province, Syria August 28, 2019. (Reuters)

The United Nations Security Council [UNSC] is due to vote on Thursday on rival draft resolutions that call for a truce in northwest Syria after Russia and China put forward their own text in response to a proposal by Kuwait, Germany, and Belgium.

Experts from the council's 15 members have met three times to negotiate on the latest text drafted by Kuwait, Germany and Belgium last month. A resolution needs nine votes and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia wanted language to be included in the resolution that would exempt from the truce military offensives against armed groups blacklisted by the Security Council.

But the United States and others refused, diplomats said. The draft instead demands "member states ensure that all measures taken to counter-terrorism, including in Idlib Governorate, comply with their obligations under international law."

Several draft resolutions vetoed 

Syria's northwest corner, including the Idlib region, is the last major chunk of territory still in rebel hands after more than eight years of war. In that time Russia has vetoed a dozen draft Security Council resolutions to protect its ally, Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad.

Western states have accused Russian and Syrian regime forces of targeting civilians, a charge they deny. They say they are targeting militants including the Nusra Front, a militant group known today as Hayat Tahrir al Sham, which was linked to al Qaeda and controls much of northwest Syria.

Russia and China put forward their own UN text on Wednesday that "reaffirms that the cessation of hostilities shall not apply to military operations against individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with terrorist groups, as designated by the Security Council." The text was seen by Reuters news agency.

China and Russia asked for their text to also be voted on by the council on Thursday, diplomats said.

Regime forces, backed by Russian airpower, have been waging a five-month-long offensive in the Idlib region.

Shortly after the draft UN resolution was proposed by Kuwait, Germany and Belgium, Damascus declared a truce on August 31 that brought a lull in air strikes. However, the Syrian regime on Sunday shelled south of Idlib, according to rescuers and residents.

Mass displacements 

The United Nations said that since the start of hostilities in northwest Syria in April, more than 550 civilians have been killed and some 400,000 people displaced. Almost half of the displaced people are living in open-air areas or under trees.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced last month that the world body would investigate attacks on UN-supported facilities and other humanitarian sites in northwest Syria. Russia and Syria regime have said their forces are not targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure.

The locations of the UN-supported facilities and other humanitarian sites like hospitals and health centres had been shared with the warring parties in a bid to protect them. However, the United Nations has questioned whether it made them a target.

Source: Reuters